From Istanbul to Byzantium

Paths to Rediscovery, 1800–1955

November 23, 2021 - March 6, 2022

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a confluence of geopolitical, diplomatic, academic, artistic, and local interests in Istanbul paved the way for increased awareness of the Byzantine past as a rich and shared heritage. Pera Museum and Istanbul Research Institute’s exhibition From Istanbul to Byzantium: Paths to Rediscovery, 1800–1955, curated by Brigitte Pitarakis, explores the central role of the Ottoman capital in shaping the emerging discipline of Byzantine studies.

In Istanbul’s lively and multicultural environment, a common passion arose in intellectual circles among people from diverse backgrounds, origins, and countries who had come together in newly established cultural and academic institutions focusing on Byzantium. Over the course of transformations in the landscape set in motion by efforts to modernize the city, steps were taken to move away from the simplistic orientalist view of Constantinople as a fantastically picturesque city by adopting a rational approach to antiquities newly discovered or recently rediscovered. Those involved in documenting Istanbul’s Byzantine past not only blazed a trail in the conservation of the city’s cultural heritage but also developed scientific methods of study in their search for certainty. 

These developments—leading toward a scientific approach to Byzantium and insufficiently studied until now—stand at the center of From Istanbul to Byzantium. They are documented through an impressive array of archival holdings, in particular the Byzantine collections of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums. The juncture of circumstances and activities that triggered interest in Istanbul’s Byzantine past is contextualized by bringing together Byzantine artifacts along with related books, prints, maps, photographs, documents and paintings from the collections of Istanbul Archaeological Museums, Istanbul University Rare Books Library, Ömer Koç, Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation, German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul, Galeri Nev, Serap Kayhan, Dr. Safder Tarim, Büke Uras, and Birmingham East Mediterranean Archive, EPHE, Fonds Gabriel Millet, Collège de France, Fonds Thomas Whittemore, Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, as well as a 3D animation by A. Tayfun Öner that help animate the initial stages of the modern discovery of Byzantium and the path toward its heritage becoming an area of academic study, conservation, and widespread interest. 

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Exhibition Catalogue

From Istanbul to Byzantium

From Istanbul to Byzantium

From Istanbul to Byzantium: Paths to Rediscovery, 1800-1955 explores the pivotal role of Istanbul in the emergence of a new and international and local awareness of the city’s Byzantine heritage. 

Demons, Symbols, and the Cosmos

Demons, Symbols, and the Cosmos

Beliefs surrounding illness and healing in Byzantium stem from the myths, astrology, and magic practiced around the Mediterranean by Jews, Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and Greeks.

Female Attires from the Perspective of Painters

Female Attires from the Perspective of Painters

Due to its existence behind closed doors, the lifestyle and attires of the women in the Harem have been one of the most fascinating topics for western painters and art enthusiasts alike.

Giacometti in Paris

Giacometti in Paris

The second part of exhibition illustrates Alberto Giacometti’s relations with Post-Cubist artists and the Surrealist movement between 1922 and 1935, one of the important sculptures series he created during his first years in Paris, and the critical role he played in the art scene of the period.